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Many new grads make the same common job search mistakes. In some cases, this could cost you your dream job. Often, the best way to learn in life is to make mistakes, but why not avoid them altogether?

Mistake: Lack of focus.
Why It’s a Mistake: People spend more time researching a laptop purchase than they do researching the job that’s right for them.
How to Avoid/Overcome It: Identifying the right job for you requires research—you need to be aware of what you do well, what you want to do, and how this translates into the job that’s right for you.

Mistake: Writing your résumé first or not tailoring them.
Why It’s a Mistake: Without a clear-cut career goal, it’s difficult to write a résumé that highlights your experiences and demonstrates why you are the best person for the job. A résumé is a tool to screen you out, not into, a job.
How to Avoid/Overcome It: It’s better to spend more time establishing your career goals and working your plan of attack than on a résumé. Reorganize and tailor your résumé to the job opening before submitting it, just like you would a cover letter.

Mistake: Jumping at the first job offer.
Why It’s a Mistake: It’s tempting to take the first job offered. And, if it’s truly the right job, then you’re one of the lucky ones.
How to Avoid/Overcome It: The right job will come along. You may have to be patient. Evaluate what’s important to you about a job – salary, benefits, working environment, etc. – and make sure the job being offered fits a majority of your qualifications before accepting.

Mistake: Not following up.
Why It’s a Mistake: This stalls any job search. Not following up on an interview or a contact can cause you to miss out on opportunities.
How to Avoid/Overcome It: I always recommend including the following sentence in the final paragraph of your cover letter: “If I do not hear from you beforehand, I will follow-up in one week.” Then, of course, the key is to actually do it!

As far as the best way to follow-up, I don’t recommend calling—it is unexpected and disrupts the hiring manager’s day—nor do I recommend merely “checking on the status of the position.” Make each and every point of contact with the organization meaningful. Some suggestions are included in this article.

Mistake: Not using all the tools available to you.
Why It’s a Mistake: Posting résumés on various job boards is a good step, but it is not a complete job search.
How to Avoid/Overcome It: Use your friends and family’s contacts. Heck, network in general! Make use of the social media tools out here. And, use your creativity to get the job. Make yourself stand out.

Mistake: Spending way too much time applying for jobs on the Internet.
Why It’s a Mistake: About two-thirds of all jobs are found through face-to-face contact.
How to Avoid/Overcome It: Join the professional association that serves the job type you want to be hired into. Do lots of informal information interviews, sit next to people at lunch and research events where you can do some quality networking.

Mistake: Not providing a portfolio in interviews.
Why It’s a Mistake: Portfolios provide examples of your work and awards you have received throughout your career. They can truly pack a punch and help you stand out among other candidates.
How to Avoid/Overcome It: Put together a portfolio now. Don’t put everything you have ever done in it — just the stuff you want to show off. Projects in college you received an A on, evaluation forms from internships you have completed and other documents that show your talents (and successes/results!) should be included.

Mistake: Not cleaning up your online presence before looking for a job.
Why It’s a Mistake: Nearly every HR professional now will check Google and Facebook to research potential candidates. If they have a choice between one person with no Facebook profile and a candidate who has a Facebook profile with a picture of themselves drinking upside down at a fraternity party, they will usually pick the candidate without the questionable picture.
How to Avoid/Overcome It: Anything you write or post online may be seen by your children and your children’s children — along with current family, employers and others. Use that yardstick of caution before you write something on Facebook, in a blog, or on Twitter. Untag unflattering pictures and use privacy settings.

Mistake: Showing up to an interview with no list of references.
Why It’s a Mistake: Even entry-level candidates should have enough experience to come to an interview prepared with a list of three to five references.
How to Avoid/Overcome It: Seek out those with whom you’ve worked in the past, such as previous supervisors, the summer intern coordinator or the coordinator of the volunteers at a local charity. Ask for permission to use them as references and talk to them about what they’d say about you if contacted.

This post is part of the Career Collective effort founded by Miriam Salpeter and Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter. Other posts about fooling yourself during the job search from the Collective include:


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  • http://www.theexecutivebrand.com/category/blog/ Gayle Howard

    All your points are spot on Heather! I particularly applaud lack of focus and jumping at the first job offer as key mistakes made by jobseekers. Over the years I have watched as clients have made a series of knee-jerk reactions, falling from frying pan into the fire time again, only to find themselves dissatisfied, never rising any higher up the ladder, and in the same environment as the one before. All of this could have been overcome through strategic, reasoned planning and thinking. Great article!

  • http://www.careersherpa.net career sherpa

    Really nice job setting this up so that we understand the “whys” and “hows”. There is a logic or reason why and everyone needs to know, the rules have changed a bit over the years. For the new grad, these are brand new rules for them. Another reminder is that they should continuously be looking for their next job once they’ve secured a new one! Job search is never over.


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